The tone of many posts on the Ancient Mariner blog have been accusative, depressing and wanting for answers regarding the dilemma of the economy, culture and politics that exist today. The mariner has played the role of Grim Reaper, warning that death is near. These posts have set an accurate description of the times we live in. The recovery from the 2008 recession is not really a recovery. It is more a symptom of a far greater transition in our lives. The bank failures, simultaneously tied to high stock prices and the rapid decline in the standard of life for American people, indicates that the United States is off balance. The time to regain balance shortens daily and the big question is will the United States fail or succeed?
Failure will be to stay on course, an economy where corporations draw the last blood from employees, inventory, markets, and their own ability to exist in twenty-five years. Those who can afford it invest in the stock market; they are trying to catch the last flight out of this economic mess – similar to the last days of occupation at the end of the Vietnam War. This is why stock prices are high; there is nothing else left. In our hearts and pocketbooks, we know that to continue with today’s economic model, today’s cultural biases, and today’s political ignorance, the United States will no longer be a world power.
Where is the promise of the future? Where is a resurgence of pride, success, and a wholesome life for the common citizen?
Take a long look at the major changes in American history, both economically and culturally. A young America rode the wave of natural resources into the Industrial Age; farmers became factory workers; an emerging infrastructure foretold a mobile and distributed economy; society reorganized itself away from stiff hegemony to a growing middle class economy.
The culture changed along the way, too. New State governments forged a new national citizenry; slavery was abolished; women were allowed to vote; unions were legalized; the banks invested in the power of the working class; civil rights were enforced; segregation was banned; Social Security assured a minimal safety net; the GI Bill encouraged upward mobility and an educated population. The economy could not have grown without lifting cultural fairness for the common citizens.
It is time again. It is time to transition to a new America. We, and our government, and our corporate wealth have a choice to make. America can readjust to a lower standard of power, wealth, and cultural stagnation by becoming a service economy, recognizing that is what we already are experiencing, or we can become a nation of creators and pioneers for the rest of the world.
The nation experienced such a role during the early space program. That leadership role created hundreds of new technologies, new products, and new jobs across many industries. It is that feeling we must regain if we are to see the promise of the future. We must insist that our elected government has the same vision and that our corporations begin again to invest in educating and underwriting the middle class to be an asset to progress and profit.
There is resistance to this transition, just as hegemony was disempowered in the past, it must be again. The Governments must turn their ear back to the citizenry (and close their pocketbooks). Ask what is the best path for the American citizen? As farmers became factory workers, the working force must be turned into a new working force – educated in new technologies, new ideas, and fully capable of creating and pioneering a new world order.
Creativity has always been the strong suit of the American culture – when it was cared for and encouraged. The middle class must be strengthened and drawn into the cutting edge of new technology, new cultural fairness, and new lifestyles.
That is the promise of the future. Will government, business, and us pull together? It is the only way to get a ticket out of this troubled time.